This is a guest post written by Catriona Robertson (@RabCShell), a new professional working in HE/health libraries.

Lucky might not be the term that springs to mind when you hear that it was LILAC’s thirteenth year in April, but that is how I, a LILAC newbie, felt to be attending this year’s conference. LILAC, the Librarian’s Information Literacy Annual Conference, is organised each year by CILIP’s Information Literacy Group and attracts attendees and delegates from the UK and further afield. This year’s conference was held over three days at the beautiful Swansea University Bay Campus. As an added bonus, there was plenty of sun rays, as well as ideas, to soak up.

There were so many parallel sessions on offer that choosing which ones to attend was difficult. I made my choices based on which ones might be useful for my current role and which ones I was personally intrigued by. I realised after turning up that it was quite easy to swap sessions, so I probably shouldn’t have agonised for so long over my decisions – I think it’s fair to say the points system I devised to help me decide was a bit much!

Ethics emerged as a key theme of the conference. I knew from Josie Fraser’s first-day keynote on open access that it was going to be a fascinating three days. I was particularly interested in open movement discussions about how Open Educational Resources and open access have transformed the way we can develop and share resources. Josie raised an important point that open movement principles should extend to making materials as accessible as possible for all users, including people with disabilities. It’s not enough just to make materials free and easily retrievable if they are not usable for everyone.

There was a lot of talk about how the landscape of information literacy is changing. The last year has seen a growing discussion about alternative facts and the idea of living in a post-truth world. Many speakers argued that we have a professional responsibility to respond to this post-truth phenomenon. Alan Carbery’s brilliant keynote on the last day of the conference highlighted the importance of teaching information literacy to students in a way that is relevant to the wider world outside of their studies. He spoke of ‘info-centric’ rather than ‘library-centric’ instruction, which aims to encourage students to be open and engaged with information. The dangers of algorithms and the dreaded filter bubble was raised by several speakers. Angela Pashia’s paper highlighted how information skills instruction in academia can often support dominant and patriarchal narratives through uncritical assumptions of authority. Instead, we should encourage students to think about notions of authority, unconscious bias, and silenced voices.

I also picked up practical ideas that I would like to implement within my own training methods. Observing different speakers was helpful for reflecting on my own presentation style. I noticed how well the audience responded to speakers who moved within the full space of the room. I went away with some ideas for utilising different technologies, including AR and embedding more social media content in VLEs. I found Ray Bailey’s presentation on how to manage stress and stay motivated when delivering repetitive training useful. His advice included using gamification to make sessions more interactive and less samey. He also strongly advocates for taking lunch outside of the office which I liked – unchain yourself from your desk and find some breathing space! Outside of the parallel sessions, I was still learning. I happened to sit down for dinner with a group of librarians from Sweden and we compared HE sectors and working practices.


burn out slide
Ray Bailey’s presentation focusing on managing stress within library instruction

As a new professional, I found my first LILAC experience invaluable. I had the opportunity to meet and listen to experts in my field, get inspired by the work and ideas of my peers, think about information literacy on a much broader scale than I had previously, and add my own voice through discussion. I have also been able to integrate some new skills and ideas into my own work.

If you are lucky enough to attend LILAC, or another conference in the future, here’s my top tips:

  • Do make time to explore the local area and hosting institution
  • Do try to talk to new people
  • Do attend some sessions outside of your sector
  • Do follow the conference hashtag and try adding your own contributions
  • Don’t force yourself to attend everything – take time to reflect!
  • Don’t worry if you’re not a social butterfly, take it from someone who’s a ball of anxiety at these things, networking doesn’t have to be formal – even just a quick talk as you are waiting to go into a room counts
  • Don’t try to note-take/memorise/tweet everything – whatever you forget, someone else will have immortalised via Twitter

You can find a storify of my tweets from LILAC here.


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